EU agrees 1.8bn-euro loan to Ukraine

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The EU has agreed a €1.8bn (£1.3bn; $2bn) loan to Ukraine – the largest financial deal with a non-EU member.

The agreement was signed at an EU summit in Riga, Latvia, which brings together the leaders of the 28-member bloc and six post-Soviet nations.

The loan aims to help revive the cash-strapped economy of Ukraine, which has also been badly affected by fighting with pro-Russian rebels in the east.

It requires Ukraine to adopt reforms, including anti-corruption measures.

In other developments on Friday:

  • Amnesty International released a report, saying it had found evidence that both sides in the Ukrainian conflict were torturing prisoners, and that the rebels were conducting summary executions
  • Russia was taking all the necessary steps to free two of its citizens recently captured in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying. The two men earlier confessed to being members of the Russian armed forces to mediators of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
  • Ukraine said three of its soldiers had been killed and another 12 injured in the past 24 hours in the east of the country

    €200m grants

    In Riga, the EU also pledged €200m grants to Ukraine and the other five “Eastern Partnership” members: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova.

    The decision by the previous Ukrainian government in 2013 to scrap a deal on closer ties with the EU sparked protests that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych and led to the confrontation in the east.

    Ukraine’s economy continued its contraction in the first quarter of 2015, and Kiev faces huge bills to the country’s international creditors in the coming months.

    More than 6,000 people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine that began in April 2014 when rebels seized large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

    This followed Russia’s annexation of the southern Crimea peninsula.

    The Ukrainian government, Western leaders and Nato say there is clear evidence that Russia is helping the rebels with heavy weapons and soldiers. Independent experts echo that accusation.

    Moscow denies it, insisting that any Russians serving with the rebels are “volunteers”.

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